Weight Management and Menopause
The war against weight gain is a common struggle for so many people and one that often find themselves losing. Sedentary lifestyles paired with the convenience, availability and low cost of nutritionally low but calorically high foods stack the odds against you accomplishing your goal of maintaining your weight or losing weight. It seems that the entire outside world is committed to you weighing more.
When you enter into menopause, it appears that even your own body is siding against you. All of your best efforts are met with poor results as the weight slowly accumulates. You feel hungrier. You lack the energy to exercise at the frequency or intensity that you did previously. Additionally, the biological changes negatively influence your mood which makes you more likely to seek out high calorie “comfort food” rather than healthier options.
To add to the problem, you are aware of the risks of weight gain. The media constantly splashes the information across the TV and computer screen. Weight gain leads to higher blood pressure, increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. The more weight you gain the higher the risks.
It may feel that it is you against the world. It may feel that you can never win. This is a lie, though. Taking action to understand the changes your body is experiencing, finding new ways to modify your diet, changing your exercise routine and finding ways to improve your mental health will improve your likelihood of winning the war against weight. Here’s how:
Why Weight Gain?
Menopause is a period of huge transition for any woman. Your body’s chemistry is changing and you mental health often follows. Estrogen is the main factor in the shift of menopause. Studies show that lower levels of estrogen lead to less physical activity. Less activity means less calories burned throughout the day and less time to strengthen your heart and lungs through movement.
Lower estrogen is also linked to lower resting metabolic. Resting metabolic rate is the pace at which your body burns energy during periods of inactivity. People with high metabolic rates are burning larger amounts of calories while they are sitting at work or watching TV at home. People with lower rates are burning smaller amounts doing the same level of activity. Having a low resting rate gives you quite a disadvantage in maintaining weight.
Thirdly, lower estrogen is related a worsening of your body’s ability to process starches and sugars optimally. When your body does not do well in using this possible energy source, they become stored as fat. This aspect further hinders your efforts.
Along with the changes linked to estrogen levels, people going through menopause are impacted by other factors associated with growing older. Older people are less likely to exercise due to decreased energy levels. As you age, you lose muscle mass. Muscle loss is associated with decreased resting metabolic rates. Lastly, your body’s ability to efficiently burn calories during exercise decreases. This means that you must exercise with increased intensity, frequency and duration to achieve the same results.
These factors lead to frustration, disappointment and stress - enemies of weight loss.
Now, here’s the good news. Recent studies have shown that there are diet patterns that yield good results. In the short-term, eating less sugar, less fried foods, eating out less often while eating more fish helped with weight loss and maintenance. Interestingly, eating less fried foods and eating less often at restaurants was not related to weight loss four years into the study.
Unsurprisingly, eating less sugar is linked to lower weight in both the short-term and long-term. The study showed that women that ate fewer desserts and drank fewer sugary beverages were more likely to lose weight and keep it off.
The study also found that increasing fruit and vegetable intake did not show a significant relationship to weight loss at six months. The result changes at the end of four years, though, as woman that ate more fruits and vegetables were better able to maintain lower weights. In fact, this was one of the best predictors of improved weight.
When it comes to weight loss, making choices based on long-term benefit are the best ones. Reducing sugary drinks, eating fewer desserts while eating more fruits and vegetables were the best predictors of desirable weight. Avoid solutions that are temporary or seem like a quick fix, these usually lead to weight loss that is unsustainable. Frequent weight changes lead to increased shame, guilt and disappointment. Be kind to yourself by making lifestyle diet changes that can be maintained.